I saw this article on Facebook yesterday, and it inspired me enough that I felt I had to write about it. NBA executive Rick Welts (president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns) bravely came out in the article, an action that should have resounding repercussions in the homophobic world of professional sports, especially in light of Kobe Bryant’s careless (but not necessarily homophobic) use of the word “faggot” to describe a ref who’d teed him up during a game.

Professional sports has long attempted to get rid of the stigma of being homophobic (from John Rocker to Tim Hardaway), and the only way things are going to change is if they change from within. Stats show that at least 10% and as much as 25% of men have at least one homosexual or bisexual experience in their lives (a stat that’s extremely difficult to qualify seeing as a large number of men would never admit to having these desires). It’s idiotic to think that there’s not one or more gay or bi dudes in the locker room at your gym, or on your favorite sports team. The part of the Welts article that made me smile, though, was the fact that many of the people he made his announcement to already assumed he was gay. Reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend that I grew up with, where he was like “oh, I don’t know if you know, but…”. My response was “dude, I knew you were gay twenty years ago”. At any rate, a very classy move by Welts, classy responses by David Stern (I guess now I can only hate him because the NBA is scripted) and Steve Nash, and maybe this is a little baby step for a little more tolerance in pro sports (even though as an owner, his announcement has much less weight than it would if a player were to come out).

Also this past week, CNN anchor Don Lemon came out of the closet in advance of his upcoming book, “Transparent”. A news anchor announcing he’s gay isn’t that big a deal, but a black man coming out of the closet is ALWAYS a big deal, given the community’s deep-seated homophobia. Think about it-how many nationally known out black male celebrities are there?

Still waiting…

Anyway, kudos to Lemon for making his announcement. Of course, folks on the internets are now sniffing around yet another prominent CNN anchor to make a similar announcement, and this is where we have to have a difference of opinion. Would it be nice if Anderson Cooper publicly came out? I guess. But does he have to? No. I mean, let’s face it-no one is required to announce their orientation to the world. People don’t have press conferences or take out ads to announce they’re straight (unless they’re Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere). Anderson’s not trotting out beards to try to hide anything, and by all accounts, the people who matter (i.e. his friends and family as opposed to his viewing public) are already aware. While publicly coming out is brave and inspiration, it’s also not a necessity for public figures who want to keep their private lives private.

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